The Morgan Chapter of the Utah Sons of Pioneers enjoyed good friends and a luncheon at Larry’s Spring Chicken Inn on Monday, Aug. 15. Roger and Susan Peterson gave an inspiring presentation on their recent mission to Vermont.
Roger and Susan were married March 17, 1967, in the Salt Lake LDS Temple. They have seven children and 25 grandchildren. Roger served a mission in Denmark, graduated from Weber High School, Weber State University, University of Utah, and Brigham Young University. He holds a PHd in American literature and has published several books. He worked for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for his entire career, serving as director of the LDS Institute at UCLA, as a manager of the Curriculum Department and manager of the Intellectual Property Office. He served as a bishop and as a counselor in the stake presidency. He retired from the Army, serving as a medical platoon leader in Vietnam and was chief of staff for the 426th Medical Brigade.
Susan attended Weber State University. She is an artist, painter, writer and has served in numerous auxiliary presidencies.
The Petersons served their mission in Vermont at the Joseph Smith Memorial and Visitors Center. Susan shared the story of how the monument came to be. Julius Wells was called to meet with the first presidency in 1905. President Joseph F. Smith asked him to go to Vermont to find the place where the Prophet Joseph was born, purchase the land and place a monument on it. Wells arrived in the area the first part of May. The area where Joseph was born and the monument now stands was a working farm with cattle, crops and maple production in Sharon, Vermont. The farm’s owner had just been through a very bad winter and was tired of the cold. Wells was able to purchase the site on the spot. The next task was to find a quarry that would cut the stone for the monument. Wells traveled 35 miles to the north, where he found a quarry called The Rock of Ages Quarry. Wells asked the quarry master if they could cut a stone 38 ½ feet tall finished (above ground). He agreed, and work on the obelisk and base began in mid June.
Wells returned to Sharon and, with others, began excavating the property. The original hearth-stone from the home where Joseph was born was saved and is now in the visitors center. They also constructed a cottage next to the monument site that became the home for Wells and his family for the next six years as he served as overseer of the monument. The farm remained active for many years.
Wells was also tasked with the movement of the completed 40-ton obelisk and the four pieces that made up the base, another 60 tons. By late October they were able to move the monument as far a Royalton by train and then make wagons large and strong enough to carry the weight of the monument. The wheels were 20” wide with huge beams connecting them to support the weight. Each wagon was pulled by 10 teams of horses. Because of soft, muddy roads, they were forced to place large planks of wood ahead of each wagon wheel, drive over them, and move them to the front again. It was tedious and slow, but it worked.
Almost to their destination they met with another challenge. Partway up a steep grade on what is called Dairy Hill Road, they ran into an old bog called Mister Buttons Bog. A fully loaded hay wagon was caught in the bog. All of the men transporting the monument helped get the wagon out. Wells realized the wagon carrying the monument would never make it through the bog. Wells returned to his hotel room and prayed for a miracle. During the night, a Canadian Clipper came through the area, dropping the temperature 35 degrees and freezing the bog. The next morning they were able to cross, using extra oxen and block and tackle. After many trials, the monument was placed on Dec. 8 and dedicated on Dec. 23.
Susan said today, as you drive to the monument, there is a feeling and spirit of peace and joy. The area is remote, not like other historic sites. At this spot, a little baby was born that was going to change the world forever.
Roger Peterson said how fitting it was to place a monument as a tribute to Joseph Smith’s birthplace. He shared several interesting stories and events that happened in Vermont. Vermont is the seedbed of the restoration. Seventy-two progenitors came from Vermont, including Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Shadrach Roundy, and many others. It started in the year of 1732 with the birth of Solomon Mack, the father of Lucy Mack Smith. Solomon fought in the French and Indian War and was shot several times, was in the Revolutionary War, and in 1804 moved from Gilsum, New Hampshire, to Vermont, near where the monument now stands. His wife, Lydia, was an educated person. He was a pioneer.
Vermont was the 14th state in the Union and needed to be populated. Land was being sold for about $1 to $1.50 an acre on the condition you purchased 100 acres, built a cabin and lived on the land. Solomon’s son, Daniel, took advantage of the opportunity. Not far from his property was an old wayside inn, a place where people came and sang and danced around the fire and slept while they were taking the old turnpike road up to Canada. Daniel told his father, who was 72 at the time, that he should buy the place. The first thing Solomon’s wife, Lydia, did after they arrived was to convert him to Christianity. Whatever he took on, he did so with typical pioneer gusto. He had a ship on the Atlantic Ocean. He built a dam across the Connecticut River. Now he was converted to Christianity, he wanted everyone else to be converted, so he got on his old horse, which he had to ride side saddle, and rode 50 miles to Windsor, Vermont, where he had is life story published. He brought it back and sold them for 25 cents a copy. Lydia, Solomon’s wife, took care of the guests coming up the old turnpike road. She was a schoolteacher and an innkeeper.
Jason, the oldest of nine children, met a girl called Esther Bruce and badly wanted to marry her. Solomon came to him and said that if he would go with him up to Liverpool (Canada) on his ship. he could get gold payment to start his marriage with. Jason went to Esther and told her he had to do this. Esther told him to go, but said he had to write. Jason went, and didn’t return for four years. In the meantime, a boy at the post office wanted to marry Esther, too. He collected all of Jason’s letters and burned them. He convinced Esther that Jason was dead, so she married him. When Jason came home after four years, Esther sees him and passes out. They put her to bed and 15 days later she dies.
Another great son, Stephen, was an entrepreneur, founded Detroit and Pontiac, Michigan, and owned the store where Joseph Smith Sr. and Lucy Mack met. The Smiths also came up from New Hampshire seeking land. Asael Smith, Joseph Smith Sr.’s father, was looking for a piece of land called a gore, which is a piece of land between two surveyed plots that is not taxed. He finds one, and sends his two oldest sons, Jesse and Joseph, to carve out a farm for a dairy (Asael’s wife, Mary, was a dairy farmer). While carving out the farm, Joseph walked to town for supplies and meets little 5’2” Lucy Mack. Joseph soon proposed to Lucy. Stephen and his partner give Lucy a wedding present of $1,000. Several children were born to Joseph and Lucy, including Joseph Smith, the prophet.
All this time the Smith’s are trying to get something going for themselves. Joseph began to grow and sell ginseng root. After raising about $3,000 worth of ginseng and sending it to China with a man named Stevens, Stevens sells the ginseng and brings Joseph back a box of tea, saying it was Smith’s profit. Smiths had counted on the profits to pay debts on their store and land. Losing everything, they began a life of roaming, trying to pay their debts.
Roger related a recent experience when the church wanted to erect a stone monument for Brigham Young to replace a black stone monument in Whitingham, Vermont. After approval of the town council, the monument was put in place by a worker. On his way home, the sheriff arrested him because the monument was on private property. The monument was eventually moved to the football field.
Roger closed reflecting on some of the people born in Vermont: Oliver Cowdrey, Heber C. Kimball, Jared Simeon, Gideon Carter, Newell Knight, Shadrach Roundy, John Smith. John Limon, Luke Johnson, Zara (Zerah) Pulsifer, Lorin Farr, Elias Smith, Albert Carrington, Cyril and Anson Call, George W. Robinson and others who played significant roles in the early church. This is why Vermont is the seedbed of the church.